COVID-19 and Utilities: The Happy Hour opportunity
COVID-19 affected much of the traditional utility business during last year. On one hand, commercial energy usage fell dramatically due to lockdowns in various places around the world. On the other hand, the increase in residential customer electricity demand was notable; NET2GRID measured that 70% of its residential user base increased their energy consumption during 2020 compared to 2019.
In light of COVID-19, innovative utilities grabbed the opportunity to offer their customers Energy Happy Hours to help them optimize consumption and lower costs while staying at home for extended periods of time. One such example is Pinergy, a leading Irish utility company. Pinergy offers its customers reduced tariff plans also tailored to the COVID-19 reality such as a 9-5 home office, evening family time, and a ‘Drive Time’ plan for EV owners motivating them to charge their cars at specific times during the day.
enviaM’s Happy Hour
EnviaM, an E.ON daughter company in Germany, uses its iONA app for a Happy Hour feature. NET2GRID platform successfully supports the Happy Hour time of use tariffs. EnviaM’s customers are notified of the upcoming ‘Happy Hour’ during which they only pay half for the electricity they consume. After the ‘Happy Hour’, customers are notified of their ‘Happy Hour’ savings. The ‘Happy Hour’ has proven highly popular amongst enviaM’s customers.
(From enviaM’s website translated from German to English: ''Since we have the Happy Hour for our electricity even my husband is interested in the washing machine and the dryer. From 7 o'clock onwards our appliances are on fire!'')
NET2GRID’s flexible tariff engine allocates different tariffs to individual appliances and/or in a specific time of use slots. It thereby supports dynamic pricing and behavioral-steered load shifting.
These tariffs are loaded on NET2GRID’s platform. NET2GRID shows in the app the low tariff time slots so individual customers can plan ahead of the use of their appliances. It also notifies customers on their smartphones when a low price event is coming up 3 hours and 10 minutes in advance.
The app calculates and presents the cost of consumption in each time interval, thereby allowing the user to see the actual prices being used and the money they have saved. EnviaM itself can track the results of the service in a report detailing the cost savings their customers have accrued.
How does the Happy Hour work?
An Energy Happy Hour which is a Time-of-use tariff refers to time slots that utilities choose to offer at a reduced price.
A smart meter makes it possible for end-users to access the time-of-use tariffs giving them more choices than the standard 24-hour tariff or a day/night tariff while an engaging user experience can notify them upfront when the energy price discount will happen. In fact, electricity suppliers can provide a specific electricity tariff every 15-30-60 minutes over the 24 hours of a day. Thereby, utilities can incentivize their customers to move their energy consumption, maximizing their energy efficiency to times when the load in the grid is lower and the corresponding price reduced.
Apart from offering new services that can attract new customers, this way the energy providers can better engage with their customers, encouraging behavioral load shifting and offering better prices at times of day when demand is lower to help better manage the grid.
The trend will become more and more prevalent in the years to come because of the volatility of renewable sources like wind or solar power and because the overall use of electricity will be further increased due to more use of EVs and smart home equipment.